Saturday, 30 January 2016

The more it snows

I'm not at all poetic, but this kind of sums up today:

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The ever growing Skimo scene

During the winter season, there is only one reason for the blog going quiet.

It must be Skimo time.

© Mr Drew Photography

Once upon a time, a Skimo race day was just that - a day.  By creating the ever growing monster, it absorbs more time.  I'm certainly not complaining - if I didn't enjoy doing it, I would just stop.

On the 19th January 2013, we had 24 racers on the starting list with 15 actually racing, this is what they looked like:

© Morrocco Media

On the 23rd January 2016, we had 54 racers on the starting list with 48 actually racing, this is what they looked like:

© Mr Drew Photography

The weather turned during/immediately after Skimo so there was no inclination to head onto the hills.  Instead, we drove South and embraced 3 days of running in the wind/rain and mud.  Not sure what we will be finished first, the Corbetts or the Allisons.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Jonathon Conville Memorial Trust

Two great days with students on one of the Jonathon Conville Memorial Trust Scottish Mountaineering Courses based in the Cairngorms.

Say farewell to the calm conditions that we've been experiencing recently.

Which coincides perfectly for the second race of the Skimo Scotland series. Typical ...

Monday, 18 January 2016

East meets West

Every day is awesome in the mountains, but some days are more awesome that others.

Saturday was an awesome day but a bit of a survival day if perfectly honest.  I call this a survival day because I never took one photo and was more concerned about staying warm and wiping the rime off my goggles.

It actually started off fairly benign but at a snap of the fingers, everything turned somewhat more serious.  Cracking like I have never seen before followed by at least 3 small avalanches in our immediate vicinity. 

Cracking:  your weight is not only overloading a buried weak layer but the snowpack is also storing enough elastic energy to propagate a fracture.  (Temper)

A day where plans were changing all the time, and without doubt the most important factor to think about was terrain.

Sunday was even more awesome because Rich, Steve and I were taken up a brilliant route by a brilliant bunch of people.

Thanks Aberdeen Mountain Rescue team for looking after us so well.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Into the depths

I was supposed to be climbing today with Fran and Heather was supposed to be climbing with Karen - both completely independent teams who happened to be thinking the same thing.  However, having seen how much snow cover there was on the hills, it only took about 5 seconds to change plans.  

Good ski days are few and far between and the mention of skiing a gully line that we hadn't skied before was too tempting.

Lets be honest, it wasn't that the snow was in poor condition, it's just that we never really had the visibility to distinguish between lush heavy snow, deep drifts, brick hard consolidated snow and a separation between ground and sky.

At the bottom of the valley, it was Heather who suggested that we should ski across Loch Avon to access Beinn Mheadhoin.  Funny, how it was Heather who was last in crossing it, having watched both Fran & Di think light thoughts and pole quite fast.

I would like to say at this stage that our tracks were perfect *cough*.  Obviously turn, traverse, turn, traverse and crater is what we aspire to look like - no?

The sun tempted us all the way up to the summit with absolutely spectacular views out East into Royal Deeside and North into Strath Nethy.

Just to remind us that we were in Scotland, the biting wind and blowing snow made doing anything pretty hard.  Fran had to make a drastic recovery to regain the blowing away Jelly Babies.

They really are the hills that just keeping giving.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A white Cairngorm

To say that there is a lot of snow in the Cairngorms would be an underestimate.

Progress on foot isn't the fastest but this never stopped the MCofS winter skills groups being ninja's on the hill today.

-7 up high today so wasn't a day to be standing in the shade - looks like more of the same tomorrow with some greater wind and poorer vis.  Scotland, when she delivers, she delivers.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Retrospective fun

Why is it we wait all autumn for the white stuff to come and when it does finally come, we either spend all our time trying to remove it or complain about it.

Today was one of those days.  I wouldn't exactly say that today's route was in good condition - it was desperate.  Too much useless snow which only hid all the hooks, gear placements, ledges and put the suffering back into winter climbing.

I got hot aches not once but twice.  I got cold - really cold and that is with wearing all my toasty warm clothes. The flask got buried in the rucksack along with the food so that wasn't going to happen and I left my axes bungy cord at home so was completely paranoid about dropping them into the abyss.

You get alot of time thinking about things when literally freezing one's t*ts off at belay ledges (Note:  this is absolutely no reflection on how fast Rich climbed - if I were leading we would still be there now) and we chuckled at the top of the route (trust me, there was absolutely not chuckling on the route) about why we do it.

So why do we do it?  The unanswerable question I fear.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The joys of uphill skiing

What an awesome day today with Pedro from the British Freeride gang of uber cool steep 'n gnarly skiers. 

Not quite sure if I persuaded him enough to ditch the heavy set up especially when we hit the downs, but maybe a greater appreciation of the skills required to venture into the deep mountains.

Not quite a case of what we covered today, but more of a case what didn't we cover today.  Not much to be honest :)

Friday, 8 January 2016

There is a God

I am not slightly religious, but today felt as if there was a God.

It was a bit of a toss up between climbing and skiing but considering that I'm working on the planks tomorrow I wanted to see what the conditions were like.

It was obviously utterly pants.

The skinning was pretty good and there was loads of coverage on the plateau.  The descents weren't great to be honest with the best snow being on the north(ish) aspects where it's been blown.

It's a hard life but somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Shelf life

In all my years in the mountains I have never experienced a collapsed compass before.  It was to my horror yesterday as Derek & I embarked on Allison #63 - the meaty Inchadamph 14 miler with 900m ascent - that just when we really did need to use it this happened:

It seemed such a great idea at the time to embark on a remote path through barren terrain in a blizzard with the snow line down to 250m.  We only missed 2 junctions in the end and perhaps walked more than ran but it was a great day out.

RIP compass, you have been a loyal and faithful companion for many years.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Living the dream

Wasn't quite what I had in mind for the first work in the New Year.  Lets be perfectly honest, you need ice to teach ice climbing, you need water to teach kayaking and you need snow to teach some avalanche education.

So, hat's off to Heather at the MCofS who decided that it really wasn't fair to take hard earned money off fabby members of the MCofS to mince around in the puddles of slushy snow on a windy mountain.

So, it's been a long time since I walked up to the CIC hut, enjoyed lunch in a toasty warm hut and walked back down again.  Win some and you lose some.